Brussels blockade

4 February 2000

Brussels blockade

BRUSSELS has set the terms under which it can keep foreign produce out of the EU, according to what it calls the "precautionary principle".

A report endorsed by commissioners on Wednesday (Feb 2), says it may be used "where potentially dangerous effects of a process or product have been identified" and where "the scientific evidence is insufficient, inconclusive or uncertain".

The precautionary principle has been used in the past to justify the bans on US hormone-treated beef and genetically modified crops.

But the commission insists it is not a disguised form of protectionism – just a "basis for action when science is unable to give a clear answer".

"Measures based on the precautionary principle should be proportionate," it adds. "A total ban may not be a proportional response to a potential risk in all cases. But in some cases it is the sole possible response."

The guidelines also require the authorities to consider the potential benefits of a new product or technology before the precautionary principle is invoked and to review all new scientific data as it emerges.

See more